Islanders head coach Scott Gordon hopes his team is ready...

Islanders head coach Scott Gordon hopes his team is ready to take the next step. Credit: Getty Images

With the start of training camp Saturday and the new season quickly approaching, third-year head coach Scott Gordon hopes his team is poised to make the next step - the playoffs.

Two seasons ago, the Islanders finished last in the league. Last year, they didn't finish much higher in the overall standings - 26th place - but were competitive for most of the season. Third year's a charm?

"That should always be your objective," Gordon said. "It doesn't matter whether you're a rebuilding team or the former Stanley Cup winner, that's got to be what all players want to - make it to the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup."

Supporting Gordon's playoff goal is the belief that the team's off-season moves - particularly the additions to bolster the defense - are crucial.

"We're all excited. Some players really took the next step last year and then with the acquisitions we made on [defense], we were thrilled about that," Gordon said. "It might not have the 'Wow" factor of the [Ilya] Kovalchuk signing, but Garth [Snow] did a good job of getting defensemen with experience."

The team landed gritty blue-liner James Wisniewski via trade this summer and also added veteran Mark Eaton and the hulking Milan Jurcina to their back end.

Combine those players with All-Star Mark Streit, the now-healthy Radek Martinek, and young guys like Jack Hillen, Andrew MacDonald, and Bruno Gervais and the team's has depth at a position that was a point of weakness last season.

With that area addressed, Gordon is now committed to make sure their special teams get better. Last season the Islanders power play finished 27th in the league (16 percent) and the penalty kill came in 29th (76.3 percent). If both units make significant improvements, Gordon feels that could make all the difference between making the postseason and packing up in April.

"When you look at the potential for us to be better, it wouldn't take a whole lot."

Notes & quotes: Zenon Konopka (lower back), Mark Eaton ( back spasms) and Robin Figren (foot) will not skate Saturday. Figren is day-to-day and Eaton is expected back late next week; there is currently no timetable for Konopka. Six rookies were released from camp Friday: Casey Cizikas, Tony DeHart, Corey Syvret, Alex O'Neil, Steven Tarasuk and Justin Taylor.

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